For me, resistance bands come into their own because of their light weight, portability and almost unlimited resistance potential. Having the ability to do some type of training when traveling is great. However, not many of us have the luxury or baggage allowance to travel everywhere with our bike (although we wish we could)! There are many times I have been away on business and not had access to a gym, nor my bike, however, I always travel with a resistance band. It is also a great bit of kit to keep at work, I live in Perth and there are some great parks and open spaces in the city where you could bust out a quick 30 minute strength training session at lunch or after work.
The sky is almost the limit in terms of the number of exercises you can do with resistance bands. They can provide resistance in any plane of movement, and can be attached to different height fixing points to get different angles of movement. Bands do behave differently to free weights, so care must be taken to control the movement when returning from the band’s stretched position.
There are a few different types of bands:
• Continuous loop bands
• Bands with handles
• Physio bands
Bands have differing levels of resistance, the continuous loop bands range from a couple of centimetres wide for the light weight XS resistance bands to 10cm+ wide for the super strong XL resistance bands.
There are a few common mistakes people tend to make when training with bands, here are a few so you don’t make the mistakes others have made before you:
• Over stretching the band to get greater resistance. It is at this point that you should invest in the next size band.
• Training with too strong a band. This can result in poor and/or limited movement quality and not getting effective resistance through the full range of motion.
• Not effectively controlling momentum or eccentric force (note that the eccentric movement is typically movement with gravity; eg the lowering part of a squat movement).
• Not following appropriate progressions and attempting the sexy (most advanced) exercises first.
The session outlined below uses a single ‘continuous loop resistance band’. The resistance band I have used is 106cm long (41inches) and 13/16’ wide. It provides resistance equivalent to 5-25kg (equivalent to a small Ironedge Band or a small Force USA band). Don’t be tempted to get a larger band for these exercises – you’ll be surprised how hard they are with the small band.
Banded Front Squats
The front squat is a great exercise as it focuses on not only the quads but the upper back as well. It requires an upright posture, and maintaining this upright posture will increase your core stabilisation.
• Start with the band positioned under the arch of both feet and across the front of the shoulders, arms need to be crossed and parallel to the floor.
• Your feet need to be approximately shoulder width apart and feet can be rotated out up to about twenty degrees.
• As you squat down make sure your knees do not collapse inwards.
• Keep your chest and elbows up.
• Push your hips back as if you are sitting down in a chair and try to keep your knees behind the front of your toes for the entire movement.
• Do not descend any lower than thighs parallel to the floor.
Repeat 10-12 times.
Banded Split Squat
This exercise targets the quads, hamstrings and glutes. It is a great exercise for correcting strength differential between legs.
If you know you have a weaker leg, then always start this exercise with the weaker leg forward first.
• Place the band under the front foot, and hold the band at shoulder height in both hands.
• Begin by descending – drop the back knee straight down towards the ground, do not let the back knee touch the ground.
• At the bottom of the movement your rear knee should be directly underneath your hips.
• The front shin should remain vertical with front knee above the toes.
• Return to standing position by driving the weight through the heel of your front foot.
• Maintain an upright torso during the entire movement.
Repeat 10 squats on one side before switching to the other side.
Banded Forward Monster Walks
This exercise really targets the glutes, especially the gluteus medius and gluteus maximus. It is a fantastic exercise for cyclists due to the quad dominant nature of cycling and also helps those of us who sit for most of the day. If you do sit for more than two hours a day there is a high chance that your glutes may have forgotten how to activate! Given that they are the strongest muscle group in the body, we want them to work properly to help generate maximum power on the bike.
• Place the band under the arch of both feet.
• Keep you arms straight, chest up and back in a neutral position.
• Take small forward steps, making sure to keep your knees above your ankles.
One set comprises 20-30 steps.
Banded ‘No Money’
This exercise works on the external rotation of the shoulder. Although cyclists do not often think about training their shoulder muscles, it is important not to neglect this area as the muscles in the shoulder help lock you in to the riding position. This exercise also helps encourage good posture.
• Start by holding the band in each hand with your palms facing upwards.
• Stand tall with chin tucked in.
• Start by retracting and depressing the shoulder blades and then pulling the band apart.
• Keep the palms facing upwards and elbows tucked in to the ribs.
• Pull the band apart for a count of 1, return to the starting position for a count of 3.
Repeat 8-10 times.
Banded Single Arm Row
Not only does this work the back muscles, but it gives the entire body a workout because you have to maintain a static deep lunge stance during the entire exercise. If you find it too difficult to maintain good posture for the 8-10 reps on each side, then stop when you feel your posture is breaking down. Over time you can build up the number of reps as you get stronger.
• Start in a wide lunge position, maintaining a flat back and a straight line from head to shoulders to hips.
• Place the band under the front foot and the same side arm holds the band on the outside of the foot.
• To start the row, retract the shoulder blade and pull the band in towards the lower ribs.
• Keep the torso strong and do not twist.
• Keep the elbow close to the side of the body for the entire range of movement.
• Pull the band up for a count of 1, return to the starting position for a count of 3.
Repeat 8-10 times on each side.
Banded Quadruped Donkey Kicks
This is another great exercise to get the powerhouse glute muscles firing.
• Start on your hands and knees with the band looped around the arch of one foot and held securely under both hands.
• Flex both feet.
• Make sure you engage your core by pulling in your belly button towards your spine.
• Actively contract the glute of the leg you are raising.
• Kick the sole of the foot directly up to the sky.
• Do not let the lower back arch. If you feel that you are hyper extending the spine during this movement then modify the exercise so your forearms are on the ground rather than your hands.
Repeat 8-10 times then switch to other side.
This article originally appeared in Bicycling Australia Magazine